The cream of Devon!

It may not be healthy and it may not be slimming – but it is utterly delicious! I’m talking about a Devon cream tea and, with this spell of glorious weather, l’ve spotted lots of lucky people sitting outside cafés and in pub gardens all tucking into this simple yet scrummy treat. But is it that simple…?

I always think of Devon as the home of the clotted cream tea… but is it? It’s a debate that has been rumbling on for years between the Devonians and the Cornish. Devon has a pretty strong claim to it as, apparently, there is evidence of people eating bread with cream and jam at Tavistock Abbey in Devon as far back as the 11th century!

In Devon, we start by halving a freshly baked scone, where as in Cornwall, the cream tea was traditionally served with a ‘Cornish split’, a type of slightly sweet white bread roll. But it seems that nowadays, the Cornish have seen sense and have moved over to scones too.

Then there’s the really crucial question: which is correct – do you put the jam or the cream on first? I’m a fan of jam first, it gives you a firm base to then dollop on – I mean delicately spread – the cream. Put the cream on first and it can all get a bit slippery and the jam slides off. But there are plenty of people who insist cream first is right. What do you think?

And is it jam, then cream in Devon, and cream then jam in Cornwall…? Or the other way around? I can tell you, it is a regular topic of heated debate in this part of the world! Feelings run so high that a couple of years ago, the organisers of a Devon food festival had to commission a new publicity poster after the first one featured a cream tea made the Cornish way. Trouble is, what they said was the Cornish way, is what I call the Devon was – jam first. Oh dear!

It’s all so complicated… and we haven’t even considered the jam itself. For me, it has to be strawberry. I’m told raspberry is very good too, while some racy people even opt for damson. Surely not!

All I know is that my Mother, Diana, makes the most perfect cream tea. She’s of a generation that can turn out two dozen scones at the drop of a hat and always seems to have clotted cream to hand. She makes her own jam, of course and, with the addition of a few slices of fresh strawberry as an added treat, can produce the most delicious cream tea you’ll find anywhere. Lucky me!

 

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Herbs for colour…

I always have to restrain myself at this time of year – unlike me I know! Yes, it’s spring and everything is bursting into life, but no, it is not *quite* time to start rushing outside and planting things as we are not safely free of frost yet.

Some of my veg growing friends have got their beds prepared and have planted their early potatoes but generally, it’s best to hang on just a week or so longer…

Luckily, one of my favourite pastimes is buying packets of seeds and looking through seed catalogues or, more likely nowadays, browsing websites full of beautiful photos of plants and herbs.

Although I don’t have time to grow veg, I do like to cultivate herbs. Herbs are so wonderful – they look gorgeous, they smell wonderful and they are delicious too.

If you intend to grow some herbs this year, now is the time to start planning and, if you can, sowing seeds indoors or in the greenhouse.

I made a list of some of the prettiest herbs I could think of and thought I’d share that with you as you might like to try something new. 

Borage
Rich blue, for salads and summer drinks, it grows like wildfire in this part of the world!

Lavender
That lovely soft purple, for scent, pot-pourri and also cooking

Nasturtiums
Vivid reds and yellows, easy to grow and lovely to add pepperiness and beauty to a salad or garnish

Violets
Purple, for medicines and crystalised decorations

Elderflowers
White and fragrant for wines, cordials and favouring fruit dishes. Again, grow freely everywhere! 

Pot marigolds or calendulas
Vivid orange for salads, pot-pourri and food colouring

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Daffodils – harbingers of spring

When the first daffodils start to appear, I know that spring is really here.

Here in Devon they have been out for a few weeks and not only are people’s gardens full of them, but there are a few wild ones in the banks and hedgerows around the lanes nearby. Absolutely beautiful.

Daffodils are hugely cheering, their rich yellow colour and their open faces just seem to brighten your mood. You may not think of daffodils as a particularly scented flower – but they do have quite a strong perfume. I had some in my office last year and, having left the door closed overnight, I was amazed at the lovely strong aroma that greeted me the next morning!

Daffodils belong to the genus Narcissus, so we shouldn’t be surprised they smell lovely, but it’s a less heady smell than narcissi, lighter and brighter somehow.

I have pressed daffodils successfully. You can press the whole flower for smaller species like narcissi and the lovely mini Tom Thumbs etc, but for the larger ones I usually cut them in half and then press them to give a sideways profile of the trumpet. You can also dry them in silica powder/crystals although they do reabsorb the moisture eventually they are a fun project to play with!

A very popular flower they even have their own society established back in 1898!

 

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Spring lambs

I love Spring – the garden bursts into life, baby birds start appearing as do the lovely bouncing lambs – they are just the cutest things!

We are lucky in that there’s plenty of farmland around us here in Devon and now is the time to see the lambs at their best. They are about two months old now and getting very bold. I love catching glimpses of them as I drive along our winding country roads – while being careful not to end up in the hedge!

What makes them jump and spring? Just youthful energy and the joy of life I suppose. A Dartmoor farming friend of ours says that all young animals do it, including the calves he used to have. He reckoned that at around tea time every day, they’d start running in a group, circling the field, and then just start jumping and springing! This would go on for about 20 minutes, then they’d stop and go back to grazing as if nothing had happened.

I’ve sat and watched lambs do it too. They often jump onto things, like trees stumps or mounds of earth, and then spring off trying to outdo each other. It always makes me laugh as they look quite surprised, as if they don’t know why they are doing it either!

I tried looking up ‘gambolling lambs’ online and was surprised to find there was no scientific explanation… it seems no-one really knows why they do it.

Me, I just reckon they are having fun!

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